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Tower crane supplier anticipates industry demand


By: Sylvester Haskins 21st March 2008 Tower cranes and lifting solutions company SA French has taken steps to anticipate demand for tower cranes in order to curb long lead times, enabling the company to have shorter delivery times than its competitors, states SA French chairperson Quentin Van Breda. Van Breda says that this may be a gamble, as it is never a certainty that the cranes ordered by the company will be the specific product required for a project. “Fortunately, South Africa’s construction industry has a lot of potential ahead of it, with projects in the pipeline way beyond 2010. We find ourselves in an excellent position to supply the demand of materials handling equipment that goes hand in glove with such large projects,” states Van Breda. While a number of luxury apartment building projects are currently on the wane, 2010 stadium construction activity and its associated spin-offs, with regard to the building of accommodation facilities, as well as the imminent realisation of the Gautrain rapid-rail link, and the construction of the new power stations, have snowballed into a continual flow of contracts for both the construction industry using tower cranes, as well as the companies hir- ing out the cranes, reports SA French. Van Breda says that a number of small, medium-sized, and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) have chosen to hire capital equipment, and the factors that have influenced this trend include the financing problems faced by emerging companies in the construction industry. “The high cost of cranes and telehandlers force emerging companies to rent equipment that they need in the interim,” he says. Another factor that has influenced the growing trend towards the hire of capital equipment is the degree of comfort derived from first testing the waters through the hire of equipment, adds Van Breda. The ongoing backlog on order for all equipment coming into South Africa also affects the current demand, says Van Breda. SA French reports that it has been able to mitigate the demand for cranes, through the opening of a newly constructed tower crane manufacturing facility by tower crane manufacturer Potain, which is SA French’s principle international tower crane supplier. Van Breda says that the opening of the Potain manufacturing facility is imminent, and will substantially decrease delivery times and ease pressure in the local demand for capital equipment in construction. Meanwhile, SA French reports that although tower cranes still continue to constitute the largest portion of both the company’s order book and its turnover, the past year has seen an increase in the sale and hire of Merlo telescopic handlers. “The growth in the sale of tele- handlers, while still way behind the levels exhibited in Europe, is increasing exponentially to a point where it will reach European levels within the next five years,” reckons Van Breda. Telehandlers reduce the risk of injuries which are caused as a result of people handling materials manually on site, says Van Breda. “I believe that we will see a rapid increase in the use of telehandlers on site, as the benefits of the product will become more apparent to a wider audience,” comments Van Breda. The benefits of the telehandlers include increased levels of safety, reduced time needed to complete the job, and higher levels of productivity. He says that the company anticipates adding a further 14 cranes to its current hire fleet of 26, as well as a further four to nine telehandlers, in order to meet rental demands. “Based on the upsurge of emerging contractors, it is important that their debut with a tower crane be a good one. This is why we only place new equipment into our rental fleet, and maintain a fleet of equipment that is not more than five years old,” says Van Breda. This enables the company to give its users access to new technology and it also ensures higher levels of equipment reliability, adds Van Breda. He says that the company’s range of rack-and-pinion Torgar hoists has continued to increase in popularity since its introduction to the local market in 2004. “The technology used to manufacture the hoists is acknowledged as the most acceptable in terms of lifting personnel safely to height in this manner. We offer capacities of 500 kg, 1 000 kg, 1 500 kg, 2 000 kg, and 2 500 kg,” states Van Breda. Van Breda says that the company’s 1-t, 1,5-t, and 2-t passenger hoists are available in single- or twin-cab configurations. The single-cab hoists are being supplied to the Gautrain rapid-rail link project in large numbers, and the material hoists have been popular with major and second-tier construction companies, either as owned or rented options, reports SA French. "We recently introduced the twin- tower work platforms and the first one, which is being used at the Westwood shopping centre construction site by Grinaker-LTA, has impressed the contractors with its ability to allow a number of labourers to work safely at height,” says Van Breda. "The feedback we receive is that the working area available is a very attractive plus point. "The twintower option has a working area 32,1 m in length, and a 4t load capacity,” states Van Breda. SA French reports that its order book is in line with its projections made in 2007. “In spite of the fact that we continue to experience shipping problems, with many of our orders being split in transit, we are, actually, ahead of budget,” concludes Van Breda.

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